Landscape Alternatives to Invasive Plants

Invasive plants damage ecosystems and cause economic problems. The Massachusetts Invasive Plant Advisory Group classifies invasive plants as non-native species that spread and cause harm. Many states ban specific plant species in an effort to curb the issue. Planning your landscape to exclude invasive plants and focusing on using native selections also contributes to controlling the situation.


Landscapers and homeowners have installed ornamental invasive shrubs in an attempt to add beauty to the landscape. Unfortunately, these plants spread and become hard to control, sometimes pushing out native species. Remove invasive shrub species, such as Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), burning bush (Euonymus alatus) and autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellate). Dig up the shrub, making sure to get all of the roots. For large species, you may have to use equipment or consult a local business for aid. Amend the soil where the shrub grew with compost to replace nutrients. In place on the invasive shrubs, plant native varieties. They look just as attractive and have the benefit of low maintenance needs. Some varieties to use include winterberry (Ilex verticillata), chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) and highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum). These native shrubs add interest through colorful fall foliage, berries and flowers.


Vines make up a significant number of plants introduced into a landscape that become invasive. The kudzu vine exemplifies what happens when invasive species spread. Brought into the United States to control erosion, kudzu now covers over 2 million acres of land in the southeast. Fortunately, many locations throughout the country have native species that work just as effectively as groundcovers. Remove any invasive vines. This requires a considerable amount of work since you want to get all of the roots and stems to prevent new plants from forming. Once removed, a heavy layer of newspaper or cardboard over the area can prevent re-growth. Avoid using chemical treatments if possible. Follow any local laws regarding invasive plants and the use of herbicides. Plant native groundovers in place of the invasive species. Choose from plants like woolly dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia tomentosa), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), wild ginger (Asarum canadense) and crossvine (Bignonia capreolata). When groundcovers have the appropriate spacing, they fill an area quickly. Use mulch to keep the area looking fresh and clean until the plants fill the space.


Native wildflowers make an ideal alternative to invasive species. Many flowers spread easily from their seeds. They can choke out native plant species and provide habitat to damaging insects and animals. For example, purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) spreads rapidly in wetland areas and damages the ecosystem. Treat small areas of invasive flowers as weeds. Pull them, root included, when young for the best results and to prevent them from reseeding. Spread a thick--4 inches or more--layer of mulch to prevent seeds from growing. Large infestations may require advice from a local authority. Plant flowers native to your area as an alternative to invasive choices. They attract beneficial insects and provide food for local wildlife. Choices may include bee balm (Monard didyma), Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium dubium), blue giant hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) and purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

Keywords: native plants, non-invasive plant choices, invasive plant alternative

About this Author

Kitten Arbuckle is a freelance writer living in Indiana. Arbuckle has been writing for websites such as Garden Guides since early 2009. Her education includes training in landscaping, certification in herbal medicine from a botanical sanctuary and a variety of college courses.